Loads of Learned Lumber

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Joanna Klink, _Circadian_

PICKED THIS ONE up because Joanna Klink gave a reading locally; I was not familiar with her work before, but I'm happy to have made the acquaintance.

The volume is divided into three sections.  In the first, a relationship seems to be ending in some painfully civilized fashion, while winter descends. The climate of the season is no mere backdrop, however, as it usually gets more attention that the emotions of the speaker do, those emotions disappearing into the description the way they do in some Elizabeth Bishop poems ("At the Fishhouses" or "Cape Breton," which furnishes this volume with an epigraph).  What I particularly noticed was the syntax -- long, unscrolling, self-interrupting sentences that were trying to get away from something but kept coming back to it (see "Blue Ice" or the third section of "Raven").

The poems of the middle section are less syntactic than paratactic, marked by a weird lonely daring, an even more marked absorption in the natural world, though this a natural world that at times has a decidedly unnatural gleam to it, Wordsworth's "light that never was, on sea or land," the sea that Coleridge's Ancient Mariner sailed, the sea of Stevens's "Sea Surface Full of Clouds."

In the third section, we're back, almost, but we're not the same.  We've been affected by that alterity which is right beside us all the time but which we step into only on certain rare occasions, that alterity which we inhabited for quite a bit of that middle section.  "Why are things the way they are, and not some other way?" Klink asks in my favorite poem of the third section and the book, "Studies for an Estuary." That other-where where things are some other way, which we perhaps cycle in and out of as we cycle in and out of sleep and dreams, haunts the book, intangible and unnameable.

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